Washington: More than a week after David Headley accused ISI of training him in terrorist operation and espionage system, there has been no "convincing" denial from Pakistan, a top US counter-terrorism expert has said, underscoring the need to hold that country "very accountable".
"We haven`t seen any convincing denials from Pakistan. We haven`t seen to my knowledge, any investigations as to who this Major Iqbal is and what his role is.”
"... this is another area where we need to hold Pakistan very accountable," Bruce Hoffman, director at the Centre for Peace and Security Studies, a Washington-based eminent think-tank, told lawmakers at a Congressional hearing on terrorist threats emanating from Pakistan.
Deposing before a Chicago court as a star witness in the US vs Tahawwur Rana case, Headley claimed that he was an agent of the ISI, to the effect that one of his ISI handlers `Major Iqbal` not only knew of the Mumbai plot but also made absolutely no effort to stop the plans of LeT to target American citizens, both at the Jewish Chabad House and the Taj hotel, Hoffman said.
Pakistan has denied those charges, which Hoffman said are not convincing at all.
Congressman Michael McCaul, who currently serves as the chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Management, said: "It`s a great point. How many other of these wanted terrorists are being provided with safe haven by Pakistan, who we provide so much aid to and purportedly work together with to eradicate the terrorists."
"I think it also calls into question, as we go into the appropriations cycle, the billions of dollars we provide to Pakistan in foreign aid. We`ve known they`ve played this game for quite some time.”
"And I believe they need to be held accountable. We need some answers as to whether they were complicit with this or not," McCaul, whose subcommittee has oversight jurisdiction of all Department of Homeland Security operations, said.
Hoffman alleged that the cooperation from Pakistan is slackening rather than increasing.
"The number of US military trainers in Pakistan has decreased. The number of CIA intelligence operatives has also decreased. So I think it`s really the strength of cooperation.”
"In some of these things the metrics may be able to be publicly stated but the reporting of them may have to remain classified, but I think these are enormously illustrative of the degree and extent that Pakistan is sincere about cooperation against terrorism," he said.
"I think that the problem is that from the Pakistani perspective, they believe that in essence, they have us over the barrel. They know that we require their cooperation, but yet I think it`s been either a blank check during the Musharraf time -- or now what they see as an open checkbook.”
“So I think it`s our only leverage that we can exert over them," Hoffman said.